Nathan's YMCA Strong Kids Story - When Do I Start?
Nathan is an energetic thirteen year old who has made a name for himself at the YMCA of Central East Ontario, Balsillie Family Branch. Whether it is working on his break-dancing drill with Conrad, his instructor, jumping in the pool and working on his strokes, or showing up to volunteer, whenever he has the chance Nathan is at the YMCA. Mom, Susan, couldn’t be happier that he has found a place where he feels he belongs:
“Seven years ago, I was told my health was so poor that I might not live to be there for my kids. I want to be a role model for my kids and so I gave up alcohol and smoking and have been trying to take care of my emotional and physical health ever since. The old YMCA on George Street was there for me, and now, Nathan belongs to this Y. He interacts so well with the staff, he loves them and is so happy to come here for Youth Night activities.” Bringing Nathan to the YMCA is another choice that she makes as a mother that feels right. “Without all those folks who donate to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, I could not afford to bring my son here, and I think it would make our lives more difficult.”
One in 32 children in Canada has a learning disability, like Nathan. School life can be more stressful for him and can make friendships harder. The right environment can really improve kids’ potential for learning, especially if they experience success in new areas. At the YMCA, Nathan feels at ease and is treated just like everyone else. “I come here and I do break dancing, play basketball, swim, come to youth nights and volunteer at camps. That’s how the YMCA makes strong kids,” he says, “Working out makes you strong, but also getting good at stuff helps you believe in yourself.”
Mom, Susan, agrees that the YMCA helps build strong kids: “My son has some special needs and struggles of his own, but at the YMCA he meets new friends, he’s helpful, polite, and feels like he can be a leader. It’s a safe place for him to be himself and the staff always has an eye out for him.”
When asked if he’s good at stuff, he’s quickly affirmative, “I am the top A swimmer in my class, Star 3. I want to stay at the YMCA and be a lifeguard after I get my Bronze Medallion and NLS, because when you can swim as well as I do, if someone was drowning, I could easily help them.”
But for now, Nathan is happy to work with the younger kids, volunteering for camp programs. “Little kids really cooperate,” he says. “They like your ideas and get really excited about them.” Our Y staff spotted Nathan’s enthusiasm for the kids and so we’re going to send him to the Leadership Training Program this summer. This program will strengthen Nathan’s leadership and communication skills. As Susan says, “This program will help him stay strong and give him confidence to be firm but fair. I can’t afford to send Nathan to the program, so I am very thankful for the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, I think Nathan is awesome and he’s going to love it.”
As for Nathan, with his usual zest for any YMCA activity, he simply wants to know “So, when do I start?”